It’s the most wonderful time of year to visit Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh! Soak up the holiday festivities in Edinburgh this season with an enchanting program of events and entertainment – from traditional markets and ice skating – to Scottish storytelling and a Christmas tree maze. Starting in November and going through January, Edinburgh embraces the very merry spirit.
Scotland’s Edinburgh is like a smaller, more manageable – but equally charming – Paris. Unlike Scotland’s most populous city of Glasgow, Edinburgh has maintained a classic aesthetic that makes wandering its cobblestoned streets feel like you’re stepping back in time.
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Edinburgh’s storied grande dame is the Balmoral Hotel, whose remarkable setting with views of the Edinburgh Castle (and surrounding lush greenery) and prime location on Princes Street (with the most prestigious address of 1 Princes Street) have made it the city’s crème de la crème for a proper introduction into the Scottish capital. In Gaelic, Balmoral means “majestic dwelling,” and the hotel is indeed just that. It’s ornate Victorian façade and revered clock tower have made the hotel a landmark in its own right. The Balmoral Hotel is the city’s unmistakable center of gravity, positioned where the Old and New Towns meet one another, making it the perfect home base for exploring Edinburgh.
The North British Railway Company built the hotel at the turn of the 20th century to serve passengers arriving at Edinburgh’s Waverley Station (the station is still adjacent to the Balmoral, although it’s no longer linked by a dedicated passageway). Back in 1988, the hotel closed for a complete restoration and subsequently became the inaugural property in Sir Rocco Forte’s hotel collection, a name synonymous with luxury properties and full-service ease. A 2004 makeover saw the hotel’s 168 rooms and 20 suites transformed into green and gentle lavender hues, a palette tastefully inspired by the Scottish countryside.
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The property boasts a fabulously glammed up interior that merges historic, lovely destination-specific details and contemporary features with modern amenities and old-world manners.
With the hotel’s traditional afternoon tea at the chandeliered Palm Court, Michelin-starred modern fine Scottish dining at Number One restaurant, fine fare at Brasserie Prince by Alain Roux and a full-service urban sanctuary spa all under one roof, you’ll be hard pressed to leave the property. Exercise aficionados will be very pleased with the well-appointed gym and those craving serenity will enjoy the hotel’s heated indoor pool. It’s no wonder that this 5-star luxury hotel is where J.K. Rowling finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final book of her famous series. It’s rumored that the author spent six months holed up at the hotel back in 2006, living and writing in Suite 552, now affectionately called The J.K. Rowling Suite. The Balmoral has a wealth of Scottish heritage at its doorstep, priding itself on contemporary luxury and elegance, rightly placing it among the top of the leading hotels of the world.
This iconic hotel puts the city at your fingertips with its proximity to the trendy boutiques on George Street and a backdrop of the historic Edinburgh Castle. Beneath a canopy of steeples, spires and eye-catching towers, Edinburgh’s wandering streets wind uphill en route to this magnificent medieval fortress. The Edinburgh Castle has dominated the skyline for centuries and is part of Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns World Heritage Site. Today, countless treasures are protected by the palace walls, where you can marvel at the nation’s Crown Jewels, smell the gunpowder during the daily one o’clock firing (a tradition that originated back in 1861) and enjoy 360-degree views of the city. After a tour of the castle, make your way down the historic Royal Mile, taking in some of Edinburgh’s most iconic sights and shops, including breaks to buy cashmere goods, handcrafted silverware and stopping for a local whiskey (or two). At the bottom of the Royal Mile is the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official residence in Edinburgh and the home of Scottish royal history.
After a long day of sightseeing, it’s time to discover and take in the Scottish food and drink. While haggis (the national dish of Scotland – a type of pudding composed of the liver, heart, and lungs of a sheep) may be an acquired taste, skeptics will stand to be pleasantly surprised by Edinburgh’s enjoyable cuisine, which has claimed its fair share of Michelin stars over the past few years. From innovative tasting menus to the hole-in-the-wall pubs that have stood the test of time, chefs across the city are spotlighting Scottish produce and cheeses – making the capital an up-and-coming culinary scene. A must-book meal includes dinner at the Scran and Scallie in Stockbridge, serving elevated Scottish pub fare in a cozy and rustic-chic setting. For a truly memorable night out on the town, secure a reservation at Timberyard and allow several hours to enjoy their multi-course tasting menu of locally-sourced fare. Visiting Café Royal, a Scottish institution, is essential – that is, if you can score a seat at the bar. Last but not least, one of the best lunches around town is at The Outsider, where not only do you get one of the best views of the castle while dining, but contemporary food is as good as it is affordable.
Set against the stunning backdrop of the Castle, sparkling lights adorn the city of Edinburgh giving it a magical and mystical feel. Embedded at the heart of it all is The Balmoral Hotel, a perfect retreat to escape life’s everyday hustle and bustle and to sit back (and sip some whiskey and wine!) during the festive holiday season. With its unrivaled city center location, access to the city’s best restaurants and tables through the hotel’s concierge add just a half an hour’s drive from the EDI international airport, the Balmoral Hotel, with its impeccable combination of traditional elegance and contemporary luxury, is the ideal Scottish escape. A stay here is fit for royalty so be sure to book right away, especially for a holiday celebration like no other.